You may feel as though the carefree days of youth are far behind you. What’s more, the road that lies ahead may seem to lead only to the physical and mental deterioration that comes with age. If these thoughts have crossed your mind, take heart! In his book The Happiness Curve, author Jonathan Rauch takes note of the phenomenon that happiness improves after the age of 50, rather than spiraling downward. Read on to learn why your happiest days are still ahead of you. In addition, read tips for how to maximize your happiness right now, today, no matter what age you are.
16. Common Myths of Happiness
It can be easy to believe that happiness is always just out of reach. As humans, we tend to look beyond what we have in the search for something better. Many people buy into the myth that they will be happier when they find the perfect spouse, job, car, or home. They may spend their youth thinking happiness will only be attained when they have achieved a certain status. In middle age, they may fear that status will never be achieved and therefore they have missed their chance for happiness. This can result in the false belief that old age will be filled with disappointment and regret.
15. Research into Age and Happiness
Studies have cropped up showing that happiness actually forms a curve, with peak ages of happiness being young adulthood and advanced age. A study by the London School of Economics explains this U-shaped curve as happiness experienced by the optimism of youth. This stage is followed by a middle-age decrease in perceived happiness when goals have not been achieved or plans have gone awry. Fortunately, happiness does not continue on a downward path, but increases with age and a new perspective on life. Elderly adults who have put aside their regrets over unaccomplished aspirations find joy in life and the pleasures of each day.
14. Young Adulthood
Young adulthood can be an exciting time when life and all of its promise begins to unfold. People just starting off in life often face the years ahead with optimism and life goals. But, in their twenties, these individuals also face the stresses of obtaining an education, finding an appropriate job, and starting a family. These stresses can lead to anxiety and depression if one is unable to take the time to notice and appreciate simple joys. Youth can be wasted living to achieve goals without remembering to recognize the beauty of each moment.
13. Middle Age
Middle age has its own pressures, as individuals continue to work to meet earlier goals, support a home and family, and set aside money for retirement. It stands to reason that these years may result in a decreased sense of happiness. Previous goals for career, home, and family may not have been met. Therefore, a person may fear that they will never achieve the happiness they have been striving for. Thankfully, good things are ahead for this group. If you find yourself in this category, read on for a peek at those happy, golden years. You will also find tips for finding joy in your current age and situation.
12. Those Golden Years
In an article for AARP, Sonja Lyubomirsky, an expert in the area of happiness, links the happiness found in retirement years to emotional wisdom. This is the wisdom that comes from knowing true happiness is based on maintaining close, personal relationships rather than seeking money or fame. Lyubomirsky recommends focusing more on gratitude than on constantly evaluating one’s level of happiness.Related: 10 Ways Stress Can Affect Your Body
11. Take Time to Appreciate Beauty
If you are in the busy middle stage of life, you may be relieved to learn that the years ahead will contain joy, contentment, and an appreciation of life. However, you don’t have to wait until you are a senior citizen to seize the joy each day brings. If you find yourself in need of a little happiness, it can help to take time to slow down and look around you. Don’t just gulp your morning cup of coffee and rush out the door. Sip your morning brew out on your balcony or while watching the day unfold from your kitchen window.
10. Give Positive Imagery a Try
If stress is getting you down, try positive imagery as a way to relieve tension and find happiness in your current situation. Take a moment to close your eyes and shut out the pile of paperwork, the sink full of dirty dishes, or the commotion of public transportation. Visualize yourself in your favorite calm, relaxing, place of beauty. It may be a sandy beach, a soothing bubble bath, or a forest retreat. Take a moment to visualize this place, calm your breathing, and refresh your mind to face the tasks at hand.
9. Connect with Friends and Other Generations
Make time to nurture relationships in order to reap the benefits this has on your happiness level. Plan for breaks from the chaos of daily life and meet a friend for a chat and a cup of coffee or a walk in the fresh air. Forming relationships with those of other generations can introduce a new perspective and bring new joy. Take a niece or nephew to the zoo. Visit with an elderly neighbor for words of wisdom, companionship, and tales of the past you might otherwise never discover.
8. Get Outside
Fresh air and sunshine can do a lot to improve your mood and bring joy to an otherwise stressful day. Grab a buddy and head out for a hike in a neighborhood park. If you have a dog, take your furry pet for a daily stroll.
7. Declutter Your Life
According to Psychology Today, the accumulation of clutter can contribute to depression and anxiety. Relieving yourself of the clutter that can fill closets, overwhelm countertops, and overstuff shelves can go a long way toward relieving mental clutter or anxiety. Take time to go through your belongings. If there are items you haven’t touched or used in years, consider donating these possessions to a charity where they can be used and enjoyed again.
6. Try Something New
Experience a fresh burst of creative energy by trying something new. Take a pottery class, try out a cooking course, or join a book club. Investigate a wine club, take up golf, or join a choir. Think about activities you have always wanted to try and then stimulate your mind by giving them a try.
5. Take Time to Count Your Blessings
A lot of the time we become so busy trying to achieve our goals that we overlook the joy that is right in front of us. If you notice you are feeling discouraged by unmet goals or unfulfilled desires, take an inventory of your accomplishments and the simple beauty found in your life.
4. Pamper Yourself
Don’t fall prey to the temptation to put off pampering yourself until you have more money or higher status. Treating yourself can be as inexpensive and simple as taking a bubble bath, indulging in a piece of chocolate, or picking flowers to place on your table. Wear your favorite top, listen to your favorite songs, or sniff your favorite scent for an instant pick-me-up.
3. Treat Your Body to Nutritious Foods
You are what you eat, so if you are eating junk food and empty calories, you may be feeling the negative effects of your diet. Include colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet. These provide wonderful antioxidants that keep you healthy and improve your mood. Consume lean protein and whole grains to provide energy to keep you going throughout the day.
2. Volunteer Somewhere Close to Your Heart
Giving to others often reaps rewards for the giver. If there is a charity or group close to your heart, look for ways to volunteer your time. This may mean delivering Meals on Wheels to the elderly, stocking shelves at your local food pantry, or spending time reading to the blind.
1. Nourish Your Spirit
A study by the Pew Research Center in Washington DC suggests that individuals who actively participate in a religious congregation are happier and more engaged in their communities. Participating in worship and fellowship with like-minded believers as well as spending time in prayer can nourish your soul and lead to a happier life.Related: Friendships as the Key to a Long, Happy Life